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Anant Raje and the 'Ravi J. Matthai Auditorium' complex on campus
"The Ravi J. Matthai Auditorium, a testament to architectural excellence, was officially inaugurated by Dr. I. G. Patel in January 1997. Since then, it has served as a hub for various events and gatherings."
"Architect Anant D. Raje (1929-2009) contributed significantly to the development of the Main Campus of IIMA, first as the on-site architect representing Louis Kahn, the principal architect of the Main Campus, and later, with his own creations. Notable among the latter are the students' mess and kitchens, the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Management Development Centre, and the Ravi J. Matthai Auditorium. A graduate of the Sir J.J. School of Art (1954), Raje moved to Ahmedabad in 1957 and worked in partnership with the noted architect and his school-mate Balkrishna V. Doshi (b. 1927). Raje then worked with Louis Kahn (1901-1974) at his Philadelphia office from 1964 to 1969, before returning to India to oversee the design and construction of the IIMA campus. After Kahn's death in March 1974, Raje became IIMA's lead architect, and was associated with IIMA till 2003. In addition to his work at IIMA, Raje designed a number of other buildings through his independent practice. He also taught at the School of Architecture at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad and at various universities in Europe, the United States and India. He was the recipient of the Indian Institute of Architects' Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal (1994) and CEPT's Architecture Distinguished Professor Award" (based on IIMA Archives monograph 'Not Yet 25: IIMA in Louis Kahn's Designs and Pranlal Patel's Images', by Vijaya Sherry Chand, IIMA Archives, January 2023).
After the demise of Prof. Ravi J. Matthai, a tribute was paid to him during the 87th BoG meeting on March 16, 1984, and It was decided to establish a committee, chaired by Mr. A H Tobaccowala, to consider suggestions for creating a memorial for Prof. Ravi J. Matthai. The committee in 1984, recommended the establishment of a Centre for Educational Innovation as a suitable memorial for Prof. Ravi J. Matthai and also proposed the construction of a multipurpose auditorium (Source: 23rd Annual report, 1984-85, IIMA Archives).
In the BoG meeting on February 21, 1986. It was decided that the complex, which would permanently house the Computer Centre and the Publications Division, would be prioritized.
Twenty-sixth Annual Report for 1987-88 highlighted the key features of this complex; It was primarily planned to consist of a double-storeyed auditorium with a seating capacity of 500. The floor of the auditorium was planned to be partly tiered and partly flat, allowing for its versatile use as a multipurpose hall. The upper two floors were planned to house faculty offices. On the other side, complex was planned to house the Computer Centre and the Publications Division on the ground and first floors, respectively.
This Complex as Anant Raje notes in Anant Raje, Architect, Selected Works 1971-2009, edited by Shubhra Raje and Amita Raje, Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2012 (ARSW), "The extensions to the school building by Louis Kahn were discussed several times at various stages of the construction. Kahn proposed an extension in the form of a mirror image to the faculty offices so that the courts between the offices extended, with the corridors facing each other across the extended courts". He also notes in the same book "the requirements were broken down to three major spaces: computer laboratories for the students, accounts & other supporting offices, and an auditorium of 500 seats" (p. 43).
Shubhra Raje elucidates the notion of 'twin plazas' in this 'extension' conceived by Anant Raje, as Anant Raje notes in ARSW, "A visit to Italy in 1986 gave me an opportunity to study Renaissance architectural concepts in organizing public spaces. The twin plazas in the town of Padua are a striking example of bringing together administrative and commercial buildings, with residences on the upper floors. Each of the two public spaces has a separate identity, yet they form a unified whole" (p. 43).
The Twenty-Eighth Annual Report for the year 1989-90 highlighted significant developments in the construction of the new complex. The Building Committee finalized a revised plan for the complex, which included the Auditorium, a Computer Centre, and Office Blocks. Let's delve into the notable features of this complex.
The Auditorium, designed as an octagonal building, was strategically positioned opposite the main complex. It boasted an impressive auditorium with 550 seats, featuring a versatile multipurpose hall with a partly flat floor and partly tiered seating arrangements. Additionally, a smaller hall was designated for conducting seminars, enhancing the Auditorium's functionality.
The Computer Centre, on the other hand, was planned as a separate building situated opposite the service tower. This location was chosen to ensure convenient access to the computer facilities for all users.
To facilitate seamless connectivity, an Office Block was designed to interconnect the auditorium. This block was intended to run parallel to the then existing parking area, and it was decided that it would consist of two storeys. This arrangement aimed to optimize space utilization and streamline operations within the complex. The same Annual Report also noted that construction work had commenced, starting with the foundation or plinth.
As Anant Raje also notes in ARSW, "the supporting administrative offices form a linear building connected to the auditorium by a circular corridor on the inner side of the structure. The entire composition encloses a court facing the end elevations of the part of the building that Kahn designed, and leaving a linear space, around 10 metres wide, at its narrowest point. The broken edges of the end elevations from the courts between the faculty offices connecting it with the Louis Kahn Plaza" (p. 43).
The building committee, which convened on October 11, 1994, documented the review of the auditorium's progress. They also reached an agreement on specific modifications, some of them are reproduced below for enhanced clarity.
i) Seminar halls in the GF & FF: The GF Hall has been partitioned into two small seminar rooms at sides and one central larger seminar hall. But entry to central hall is from side halls. Therefore, it was accepted to provide three doors in external wall for the three rooms. It will not only enhance the utility of these three rooms but also provide easier access to other areas of the Centre. Since such a modification is not feasible on the first floor, it was agreed to remove the arches at the FF and provide girders to transfer the load to the slab. FF hall thus can be used for larger gatherings and for video projections.
ii) Ventilation system: The Committee suggested to run blowers of the AC system when the full AC is not required either because of the prevailing season or any other reason. Fans should be located, if necessary, in the hall at suitable places so as to keep the noise level low inside the auditorium. Doors were suggested at entrances to the auditorium near the stage so as to avoid unnecessary extra load on A/C plant.
iii) Ravi Matthai Plaza: The Committee in principle approved the Ravi Matthai Plaza at a cost of around Rs.6 lakhs. However, the revised details as per the requirements of the Institute have to be submitted by the architect for the approval of Building Committee.
The Ravi J. Matthai Auditorium, a testament to architectural excellence, was officially inaugurated by Dr. I. G. Patel in January 1997. Since then, it has served as a hub for various events and gatherings. Recognizing its significance, as recommended by the Architects Doshi & Raje, Building Committee, on August 31, 1998, granted the woodwork contract for the auditorium to M/s Sanket & Company.
See the interesting interiors of the auditorium above. Shubhra Raje explains about this robust interior- "concrete roof & walls," as Anant Raje also notes in ARSW, "The structural form of the auditorium comes from the realization that acoustics are an inseparable part of the inner envelope of the roof, walls, seats and the floor. The structure of the roof is an asymmetrical reinforced cement concrete folded plate, bending down at the two ends of the folds, 21 metres across the hall, and is supported on a three-dimensional reinforced concrete diaphragm, subsequently carrying the loads on eschewed reinforced concrete walls. The air-conditioning ducts, electric cables and rain-water gutters are integrated within the three-dimensional structure of the diaphragm, over the two ambulatory access ways on either side of the auditorium" (p. 52).
This was an important addition to the campus, as Anant Raje notes in ARSW "The auditorium serves the entire community besides being used for lectures, performances and syndicated simulation exercises. The extended stage area is a flattened floor, enlarging the space along the long axis of the hall beyond the proscenium up to the rear wall of stage. The entire outside envelope, made of exposed brick masonry walls, contains management offices, toilets, seminar rooms, foyers and backstage facilities. This insulates the auditorium from external noise & temperature" (p. 50).
He also notes that the "exterior foyer was in the sense of a mask. The idea of the entry to the auditorium from the court, and not the parking, makes greater sense. When people come out from a function, they must linger somewhere and not get straight back to their cars" (p. 56).
Note: In the initial days 'Ravi J. Matthai auditorium' complex was considered as 'Ravi J. Matthai Centre'. However, this complex only houses the 'Ravi J. Matthai Auditorium', 'Computer centre', and the 'office block'.
The IIMA Archives thank Ar. Shubhra Raje and Prof. Vijaya Sherry Chand for their invaluable inputs.
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